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Liberia's Press Union at 45 Years, Sees Partnership but no Conflict of Interest

Liberia's Press Union at 45 Years, Sees Partnership but no Conflict of Interest
Liberia's Press Union at 45 Years, Sees Partnership but no Conflict of Interest

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The Press Union of Liberia celebrated 45 years of existence over the weekend, years that were at times marred by anti-press laws, government interference, media  digression and transgression and lack of resources. 

But Union President Peter Quoiquoi said that in spite of the many challenges it has faced, the Press Union of Liberia has been able to champion the cause for press freedom.

"We can certainly boast that we've been able to establish ourselves on the ground; we created sufficient awareness in our society that people know that the press is an instrument that supports democracy…on the whole, the Press Union has been very much on the front in making sure that there is press freedom, there is democracy in our country and of course the restoration of peace," he said.

Some have described as conflict of interest the Press Union's decision to use a Liberian government-supplied vehicle to transport journalists to the central city of Gbarnga where the 45th anniversary celebration was held.

But Quoiquio said using a government vehicle to transport journalists does not compromise their professionalism.

Instead he described it as collaboration with the government as part of efforts to ease tension with the government.

"I don't see that as inappropriate, especially in the face of all the confusion that we have had lately. We thought that would be a way of trying to reduce some of those kinds of tensions," Quoiquoi said.

He said the Press Union does not want to engage in unnecessary battles with the government.

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"Again, our intention is not to continue to fight when there is no need to fight. We have always said that we can collaborate on certain issues. Those that we will not collaborate on are the ones that will stand in our way to operate freely," he said.

Liberia is at present embroiled in a national debate whether the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the national legislature should implement the recommendations contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's (TRC) final report.

Quoiquoi said the Press Union will do its part in helping Liberians to understand the report.

"The media has got a real role to play, and what we have been trying to do lately is to see how we can make or to provide the space and the stage for people to debate it (the report)," he said.

After 45 years of existence, Quoiquoi said the Press Union of Liberia is not proud of its record on women participation.

"The role of women has been very limited and this is one of the serious challenges that we have. We have been trying as far as we can to make sure that women are given a space to take up leadership in the press union. In 45 years we have had only two females taking positions in the press union. That the Press Union feels very guilty about," he said.

Quoiquoi said the Press Union of Liberia is looking at ways to bring about gender equity as part of its capacity building process.

He said the Press Union has suffered from a lack of resources and had to depend largely on support from international non-governmental organizations such as the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy.

Quoiquoi said the Press Union of Liberia is considering ways to reinforce its membership due collection to supplement whatever assistance it is getting.

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